*NEW* BATTLE OF THE SEXES REVIEW *NEW*

A sterling turn from Stone lifts this easygoing sports biopic from TV movie-land.

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell).

The opening got straight to it. Clocking bonus points for shooting the opening credit sequences in all its 70s glory. Retro.

Stone was brilliant as King. You really felt for her as the world’s number one female tennis champion threw everything on the line to make a stand. She carried the film and, if anything, her Oscar was awarded for the wrong film.

It bumbled along at an easy going pace as King argued biology and tackled sexism. A simple request. Same stakes. Same prize money. As the women were only awarded an eighth of the mens’.

I’m not the biggest fan of Sarah Silverman BUT she delivered a decent turn as King’s long suffering agent. Doing her utmost to source an alternative tournament with no backing or money.

The risk King took. Jeopardising the chances of Grand Slam and Wimbledon for her cause. I couldn’t believe it.

I’m sure it was supposed to be a stark contrast watching King struggle to make ends meet while Riggs (Carrell) smoke, drank and gambled in the background.

BUT it felt like a waste of Carrell’s talents. Anyone could have played him. It was only at the 45 minute marker that the man had a little more meat to chew on. His outburst at a gamblers anonymous meeting spoke volumes: “You’re not here because you gamble. You’re here because you lost!”. Mental.

Carrell played the part well BUT I didn’t know what to make of Riggs. A washed up chauvinist? Or a player in every single aspect?

It felt like Riggs used the chauvinism angle as a mere ploy to antagonise his opponents and help ramp up the PR. By the end, I didn’t know whether the sports star was really that deluded or just desperate for one last pay out.

The ultimate irony being that Riggs was burning through his wife’s (A role that was a waste of Elisabeth Shue’s talents) inheritance to fund his expensive habits while she continued to make a living. Quietly observing from the side lines.

I was surprised at the star-studded cast involved; Bill Pullman, Andrea Riseborough, John C. McGinley and Alan Cumming. It was a shame that they didn’t really bring much to the fold.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Riseborough had good chemistry with Stone as King came to terms with her sexuality after falling for a hairdresser.

I was actually on tenterhooks when King’s husband unwittingly stumbled upon their union.

The only problem with BOTS was that in an attempt to focus on every aspect, it didn’t really provide much depth to the majority of the characters involved other than Riggs and King.

I couldn’t believe the PR up to this “Battle of the Sexes” match. I was baffled when the end credits showed the real life footage of the promotion (I thought the majority of it had been exaggerated for dramatic purposes).

The celebrity endorsements surprised me! Oh Lloyd Bridges, say it ain’t so!

Riggs wasted so much energy on showboating and mockery instead of on the actual match. I have to commend King for trying to change opinion and making a stance.

It was engaging enough BUT I expected (with the talent involved) this biopic to pack more of a punch. The social commentary still struck chords with the present. A shocking comparison by its own right.

BUT it was all rather tame. After all that build up, the BIG match was brushed over so quickly that the ending went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still rooting for King. And surprisingly, I didn’t know the outcome of this historical game.

I was mortified at the change of tide during the match commentary as they realised Bobby was feeling the strain. I couldn’t believe after all those jibes and digs about King’s looks and build that they used Rigg’s age as an excuse when she was getting the better of him?!

Madness. Funny that wasn’t an issue when he beat Margaret Court in the same year. Hmmm . . .

If this biopic didn’t have such a talented cast at its disposal, I felt this premise may have gone straight on the box.

It certainly killed the time and entertained BUT will stand the test of time like the very much it focused on? Not so much.

A stand out performance from Stone does just enough to serve up a watchable drama.

3/5

Advertisements

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE REVIEW

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN REVIEW

Normally films like this put me on edge.

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) when her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner).

I didn’t think I’d enjoy this at all.

The endless praise and surprisingly high ratings piqued my curiousity. When I saw Miss Steinfeld in True Grit, I thought to myself, “She is going to be one to watch for the future” BUT the last few films I’ve seen her in, I’ve been disappointed. Playing nothing more than a neurotic, fast talking, annoying teenage daughter.

She really grated against me in Pitch Perfect 2.

Within the first ten minutes of Nadine’s verbal diarrhea, I thought I might have to switch this off. Her melodramatic cries for attention had me wincing. That was until she shared her feelings with a seemingly uncaring teacher (Woody Harrelson).

What ensued after was a pleasantly entertaining coming-of-age family drama that hit home.

The film flicked back and forth as we got a glimpse into Nadine’s past right up to the . . . edge of 17. The melancholy and nostalgia ripe for the picking as she made her first friend at pre-school and bumped heads with her erratic mother (Kyra Sedgwick).

Her dad being the wedge between them. An endearing relationship that was cut short (rather unexpectedly).

It was easygoing and funny enough as Nadine dealt with growing up, high school crushes, her sibling rivalry with her over achieving brother Darian (Nope, not a typo. Actual name) and those . . . embarrassing haircuts. Rocking a do that bared striking similarities to Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite.

However, being a teen drama, it wasn’t long before Nadine’s relatively tranquil and normal life came crashing down after walking in on her BFF in bed with Darian.

Throwing her into a helter skelter of emotions and self-reflection as she threatens to lose her only real friend and cause a rift in the family.

After commending Harrelson’s performance in Three Billboards last month, I was impressed to see that the comedy actor wasn’t a one trick pony (I know! True Detective, yeah yeah yeah). He really has matured as an actor and delivered a sterling turn as the cynical Mr Bruner.

I loved the dynamic between Nadine and her long suffering tutor. The tit for tat banter really made the film. A constant thorn in the miserable mentor’s side. BUT beneath that gloomy exterior, lied a man with a good heart. Desperate to see this neurotic teenager find her way and . . . leave him alone for a god damn second.

Hayden Szeto was brilliant as Erwin. The geeky film nerd desperate to win Nadine’s love and affection. The awkward cringe inducing first date, the idle chit chat, we’ve all been there. I felt for the poor chap as he got “friend zoned” again and again.

What I loved most about this film was how writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig tackled loneliness and isolation among the characters.

Nadine’s depression and frustrations reaching breaking point as she tries to break up the people who are desperately trying to help her. The stubbornness and refusal to see other people’s problems over her own as she acted out.

I was a little embarrassed to admit that I could relate to the headstrong 17 year old girl. I was dropped by my best friend in sixth form out of the blue which knocked my confidence for six and forced me to re-evaluate myself.

I know the situation was reversed for Nadine BUT the anguish and awkward encounters as she tried to branch out struck a chord for me. Brilliantly captured and acted perfectly by Steinfeld.

I wasn’t sure on what direction the film would take as it reached it’s emotional finale. I won’t spoil it. BUT worth a watch.

A pleasant surprise. Not without its imperfections. It was still a little cheesy and the pace did test in places BUT hype definitely helped this time around.

3.5/5

*NEW* KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE REVIEW *NEW*

Manners maketh the ridiculous sequel

When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsmen’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.

Stupid, bonkers, OTT and yet . . . Still highly entertaining.

The Kingsman are back BUT better? Well . . .

It would help to watch the first one. BUT if you haven’t, it’s not the end of the world (Although YOU MUST! It’s rather bloody good) as quick plot points are skimmed over anyway.

I mean, my mind drew a blank in the opening sequence as Charlie (Who? Thankfully there was a quick flashback) ambushed Eggsy (Taron Egerton) in a mental cab chase punch up.

I was a little anxious with the frenetic opening. It was too chaotic and, dare I say, silly for my liking. The frantic camera work, the over-indulgent CGI, I feared the worst. The soundtrack was on point though as Eggsy and Charlie punched the living daylights out of each other to Prince. Nice.

BUT once the pace settled down and the humour kicked in, I was still happy to be caught up in this crazy mess.

Egerton ran the show yet again and carried the film (when it tragically dragged).

Julianne Moore had a tough act to follow after Ssssssamuel (One for the Kingsman fans) L Jackson’s stellar turn in Secret Service BUT she played the psycho Poppy really well. If anything, I was disappointed at how small her screen time was.

Beneath the smiley Desperate Housewives persona lied one twisted individual. Don’t eat a burger from her. That’s all I’m saying.

I liked the idea of the Statesmen. The Kingsman’s American cousin. All the satire ripe for the picking. BUT after a fun introduction and some punny wordplay on their operative names; Tatum, Berry and Bridges were all left watching from the side lines. By the end, I wondered why they even bothered. Shame.

Thank God for Pedro Pascal’s (Game of Thrones/Narcos) laser lasso throwing cowboy Whiskey.

Colin Firth was a welcome return. Even with his ridiculous (but surprisingly plausible in a “Kingsman” way) revival. A much needed presence. The camaraderie with Eggsy was the heart of the first movie.

His presence made up for some of the messier parts of the movie. The only problem was that once Harry was back, Merlin was designated to Q status. A shame as up until that point; Mark Strong (The Brothers Grimsby) had been on scene stealing form. Benched (with the majority of the Statesmen) right up until the explosive finale.

My main quibble with The Golden Circle was that where the original got away with poking fun at James Bond (and the spy genre in general); this really did take things up to 11. A bit like Kick Ass 2. Funny, messed up BUT pushing its luck.

The middle act dragged and a reconnaissance mission at Glastonbury took the biscuit for me as Eggsy “planted” a bug into a model’s (Poppy Delevigne – Yup Cara’s sis) orifice (Nope, you read that right).

Now don’t get me wrong, the original wasn’t perfect. And to say, this sequel was silly by comparison is . . . silly in itself.

Especially when you had Sofia Boutella’s lethal Pistorius blade combination, Jackson’s blood phobia and THAT church scene . . . (My God! Pardon the irony) I will never listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd  in the same way again!

I just wasn’t caught up in it as much this time around.

Bruce Greenwood’s cameo as the President of the United States was mental. He reminded me of a similar world leader (with no concept of empathy or thought. Make of that what you will). His unique hostage negotiating skills spoke volumes.

BUT the real scene stealer was Sir Elton John. The Rocketman was bloody hilarious. He really didn’t give a damn, wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself and was surprisingly agile for an ailing musician 😉

Despite the relentless CGI, the malingering pace and some mad plot holes, K: GC was still crazy fun with some entertaining and delightfully bloody and visceral action sequences.

A fun time filler if nothing else that won’t disappoint Kingsman fans too much.

3/5

*NEW* THE MUMMY REVIEW *NEW*

Oh Mumma, the horror, the horror!

Bring back Brendan Fraser!

An ancient Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella) is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

Okay, it wasn’t that bad BUT it wasn’t that great either.

To be honest, the opening act didn’t mess about. It quickly set up the premise. Flicked back and forth from one ridiculous explosive set piece to another. Cruise’s cocky Indiana Jones just about got away with it. I mean, fair play to the 55 year old for still throwing himself about and jumping across rooftops.

I really hoped Cruise and Jake Johnson’s (New Girl) pairing would have worked better. Johnson’s incessant yelling did my head in. Especially in the frenetic opening Iraq shoot em up sequence.

I just wanted him to shut up. Thankfully his swift exit was a pleasant relief.

No scarab beetles?! No Omid Djalili screaming like a banshee? (What?) Camel spiders and rats? Really? Meh.

The tone was all over the place. Too stupid to be funny and NOT dark enough to be a real horror.

The 1999 Stephen Sommers blockbuster and The Mummy Returns were perfectly balanced. They played the right level of cheese, humour (John Hannah, come on!) and let’s not forget that tongue in cheek horror.

The less we say about Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the better. Let’s not forget there was a reason why the franchise got rebooted in the first place.

The problem with this reboot was that I couldn’t stop making comparisons to the Fraser flick. On paper, swapping the dynamic around (Making the Mummy female) and modernizing it actually had potential BUT it failed to offer anything new.

Arnold Vosloo was a sinister presence. A creepy adversary (And no, let’s not mention the horrifically CGI’d Scorpion King).

Ugh.

Boutella did her best with the role BUT her lines were dull and she spent too much time in the background.

Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders) was far too serious and annoying for her own good. Rachel Weisz (my first screen crush. Don’t know why I thought I’d share that) was irritating but had her charm.

Plus it helped that there was actual chemistry between her and Fraser. No matter how nauseating it got in the Mummy Returns (Fans, am I right?)

There was zero chemistry between Cruise and Wallis. Replacing smouldering tension and friction with playground insults and more yelling.

Ben Seresin’s cinematography was fantastic to look at. The visual effects were impressive BUT not memorable. It was going to be tough to top Imhotep’s smiling face in the sandstorm.

Still haunts me . . . Moving on . . .

There were some good points (Really?). The make-up and effects were impressive. The creepy zombie soldiers and their Dementor style death kiss was a nice touch. Soul kissing the life out of people in the background while Cruise and Wallis continued to bicker and highlight enormous plot holes.

Johnson worked at lot better when he popped up in Nick’s (Cruise) subconscious. The bathroom encounter had a creepy American Werewolf in London vibe to it.

Cruise’s comical crusty corpse church punch up had me in stitches. BUT it just didn’t quite have the fun of O’Connell’s crypt chase.

Despite the vacuum sized plot holes (Seriously who brings a hostile ancient evil right to the very thing she is seeking. Face palm. Duh!), the writers really missed an opportunity with Russell Crowe.

He lapped it up as Jekyll. He lifted every scene with the right level of flamboyance. The exact thing needed to keep a silly monster movie like this entertaining.

And he was only in it for 15 minutes. Sigh. Even if his Hyde impression was a little Ray Winstone incarnate with some messy panda eyes. Seriously, let’s make him Crowe look evil. Smear some runny mascara over his face. That’ll do it. Did they run out of money?

Normally you can bank on Cruise to deliver a big popcorn movie. And he makes this mess watchable. He was just lucky that Alex Kurtzmann threw enough chaotic smash em grab em to hide what a mess this really was. BUT I didn’t expect too much and I’ve seen a lot worse for the ratings this film has received.

A mess BUT a watchable one. At least. Fraser fans may be left fuming BUT if you want a frantic time filler with enough bang for your buck, it won’t do any harm. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

*NEW* THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI REVIEW *NEW*

Three sterling turns and an Oscar hopefully.

A mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

A brooding country noir riddled with black comedy. If it wasn’t for all the profanity, you could have said it was a Fargo sequel.

Bold, brash and a little long in the tooth BUT a damn good watch all the same.

Funny how three billboards can cause so much trouble? Originally aimed at the local sheriff William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), one woman’s crusade for justice causes a stir among the community.

Frances McDormand is a brilliant actress. I knew exactly what she would bring to the table. That bitter Olive Kitteridge grit. Sharp tongued, outspoken, on the war path and not giving a damn who knows it. A powerhouse performance.

She stole every scene. You really felt for her. Her frosty reception with the town priest and her discussion on the definition of the word ‘culpable’ was worth an Oscar nod alone.

All aided by a sterling script, of course. Penned by none other than the In Bruges (Highly recommended) writer/director Martin McDonagh.

The fiery quick witted dialogue delivered that sinister comical edge as Mildred dealt with all sorts of unsavoury characters as the townspeople soon let their feelings known on the billboards. An awkward trip to the dentist made for tense viewing.

The pacing did test in places. Originally I felt the film slackened when McDormand wasn’t involved in the mix. A compliment to her performance. BUT it also allowed for some sterling turns from a highly talented supporting cast.

Woody Harrelson was excellent in the understated role of Willoughby. A man desperate to keep the peace BUT plagued by his own demons and the system he had sworn to protect. A tragic hero if ever there was one. A performance full of nuance that knocked me for six. Proof that the Cheers star can act.

I wanted more exchanges between the struggling sheriff and the militant Mildred. Despite her anger with the law, there was still respect between them.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the simple ad clerk Red Welby brilliantly. His run-ins with Mildred delivered several humourous encounters. Ol’ Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was wasted in his small role (No pun intended). He did his best BUT then again, this wasn’t his story.

I hope Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) isn’t going to be typecast in the grieving son role. He worked well with McDormand and I liked the fractured mother/son relationship. It was just a shame that he was pushed into the background. Especially after a heated “family reunion” with his deadbeat dad.

The uneven middle act left me wondering where this was all going. The tone jumped from moments of violent, foul mouthed mayhem to ones of tearful reflection and sorrow. BUT as much as I was getting frustrated, I still wanted to seek out the end game.

The always underrated Sam Rockwell nearly stole the show from McDormand. His character Deputy Dixon was a particular highlight. I loved the journey that this dimwitted racist country mama’s boy went through. A rollercoaster ride if ever there was one. I hated him, I laughed at him, laughed with him and by the end, I felt sorry for the poor schmuck.

The second half of the film took a much more sombre turn than I expected. Especially when we delved a little more into Mildred’s and Willoughby’s background. It turned an incredibly witty black comedy into so much more as everything came to a thrilling and heart rending climax.

The final act and the bittersweet ending spoke volumes as it tackled grief, anger, hate BUT most importantly forgiveness. It didn’t quite deliver what I expected BUT I was left smiling after experiencing this redemptive journey with Mildred and Dixon, in particular.

Something I haven’t felt with any film in a while.

Try not to buy into the awards hype too much and approach the film for what it is. A brilliantly acted and darkly comical tale of anger, grief and redemption.

3.5/5

*NEW* STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI REVIEW *NEW*

The last hurrah?

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.

After repressing the belly laughs from spotting Vivien from The Young Ones as a First Order officer, I was thrown into the chaos as the Resistance unleashed the mayhem.

The special effects were brilliant. The action was intense. I loved the cockpit panoramic camera work as Dameron maneuvered the X-Wing.

Speaking of which; someone must have read my Force Awakens review. The one new face writer/director Rian Johnson made sure to have plenty of screen time was Poe Dameron. Oscar Isaac was brilliant. Highly comical and entertaining. His hazing of Hux in the opening sequence was cheesy but well played. Reminded me of a young Solo.

After commending Domnhall Gleeson for his stand out performance as Hux in Episode VII, I felt his delivery this time around was almost pantomime. He was dreadfully OTT and annoying. Whether they realised Emo-Ren was lacking that sinister edge, I’ll never know.

Adam Driver was very good as Kylo. A much more sombre turn that worked a lot better for the character and he got rid of that ridiculous helmet!

Ren’s conflicted conscience continued to tease throughout. Had he truly turned to the Dark Side? Was there any hope left for him?

I loved how the old faces mixed with the new ones. Andy Serkis got to feature a lot more as the creepy Snoke. The CGI and detail on the super Sith (Seriously how tall was that guy? Was he even a guy?) was impeccable.

Carrie Fisher delivered a sterling turn as Leia. There were a couple of question marks about her character that surprised but also annoyed me. BUT don’t FORCE me to spoil anything. I respect the team for keeping the finished scenes after her tragic passing BUT I can’t help but feel that it might cause problems for the next installment.

However, her appearance allowed for a wonderful reunion that (I’m not going to lie) plucked at the old heart strings.

BB8 stole the show yet again. Delivering the laughs in this super serious saga.

BUT there was one face I was happy to see return and that was the man himself. Luke “Robo-Hand” Skywalker.

Hardly a spoiler as we left Rey presenting the miserable Jedi with his old lightsabre. I was surprised at how comical Hamill was BUT it added an extra humanity to this flawed veteran. A man defeated and desperate to avoid the call to action once more.

I loved the bitterness. Ridley and Hamill were a fantastic duo, which made the dynamic work that much more, as Luke reluctantly helped the stubborn Rey channel the Jedi within.

Ridley still carried the film where it counted. Her Force telepathy conversations with Ren were intriguing.

I loved how Johnson and co. brought so many new creatures and wonderful set designs to life. The nun toads and the PORGS (My God. Those PORGs are going to be the next craze fo’ sure) being particular highlights.

There were a few surprises and twists along the way. Plenty of fitting nods and references to keep the new SW and (the long suffering) old fans happy.

The only problem with focusing on particular characters and bringing in new faces was that some had to face the cut. Chewbacca, C-3PO and ol’ R2 were pushed into the background far too much.

Well, maybe C-3PO was the right decision. Don’t get me wrong, they stole the show whenever they had the opportunity BUT I wanted more.

At the same time, that showed confidence in the new faces that it wasn’t too much of a concern. I was a little worried at how Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Trico was going to fare. Her initial irritating introduction had me wincing BUT the loveable rogue soon grew on me and I was actually rooting for her by the closing act.

She worked well with Boyega and allowed an increasingly absent Finn get back into the fold.

I have to say I enjoyed TLJ a lot more than FA (Force Awakens). FA had a stronger first half but withered out with a retread of A New Hope while TLJ got better and better and made the story its own.

I expected so much worse after the Twitter hate BUT was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t perfect. The pacing was a little testing in places and some scenes were a little hokey. The casino sequences at Canto Bight were a little . . . strange.

And there were a few plot holes. *Cough* Light speed chase *Cough* BUT there was enough fun, adventure and drama to keep things gripping, riveting and entertaining. I would have no qualms watching this again.

I can’t wait for Episode XI and any other spin-offs (that we already know are on the way) if they can continue to maintain this standard.

3.5/5